Mills 50 mainstay Will’s Pub
Well if you are looking for an interesting spin on your morning coffee, the news that one of Orlando’s longtime venues, Will’s Pub, has been sold. This is sure to set off a trigger…or will it?
Now to make one thing straight, this does not mean that the owner of Will’s Pub and figurehead Will Walker is shutting down the bar but what this does mean is that there is a new owner of the Mills Avenue property upon which Will’s sitting.
Will Walkers lease to the building
Walker’s lease on the building extends through close to the next 10 years, though, and so for the immediate — if not foreseeable — future, Will’s Pub is open for business.
“It’s weird, people look at that in weird ways,” says Will Walker during a conversation with news on Wednesday afternoon, “since we’ve been upfront about how we weren’t exactly healthy this past year, I could see people being like, ‘Oh, well that’s it.'”
And yet, it’s definitely not “it” for the Mills Avenue institution. “Our position is — we’re not going anywhere, don’t sweat that,” says Walker.
Mills 50 real estate
The previous owner of the property, Robert Cascio, put it up for sale and the land was snapped up forthwith, as any and all Mills 50 real estate is a hot commodity these days.
“I found out that the sale was finalized when the Sentinel called me,” says Walker with a perfect note of dry humor.
The new property owner, Kevin Reynolds, appears to be a believer in the work Walker and company are doing at Will’s — indeed, this new landlord even took in his first concert there. Reynolds paid $870,000 for Will’s site and lauded Walker as doing “a phenomenal job being an operator of the space,” to the Sentinel.
“He’s been to shows at Will’s. He’s a younger guy … and he doesn’t seem to be a developer, more of a property investor,” says Walker of Reynolds. “So, out of all the possible scenarios, this was one of the better ones.”
When Orlando Weekly spoke to Walker, he seemed in relatively good spirits given the extremely turbulent year — almost to the day — that he and his establishment and staff have weathered during what should have been a boffo 25th anniversary year. Instead, it was a year of financial emergencies and pivots and adaptations to the continued challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve had so many pivots this past year that it’s really hard to keep track of what the hell we’re doing. ‘Now we’re a restaurant, surprise!’” says Walker. “I’m actually curious to see what we look like on the other side of all this. What sticks … there’s a lot in up the air.”
What Will’s looks like right now is very much like the neighborhood watering-hole of old — though with new health and safety guidelines in place — but with a pared-down calendar of events (many outdoors) and the addition of a new kitchen, run in tandem with Swine & Sons.
“It’s going really well,” says Walker of the kitchen operation. “We’re up to five days a week, we’re hanging the menu here and there. We just added wings. It’s good, partnering up with Swine & Sons is turning out well thus far, and I think into the future is a really solid thing.”
In the face of an uncertain future, Walker has a disarmingly simple strategy in mind going forward.
“I’m kind of refocusing on not growing,” he says, “and getting back to some basics.”
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